Posted by: petsweekly | September 29, 2010

Thoughts on “Banned Books” Week

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been getting by on about two hours of sleep a day. It’s not by choice… Sometimes I just can’t shut my brain down long enough to sleep, or I have far too many things going on and actually feel guilty about sleeping because that means I’m not doing something that is “action-oriented” towards my lofty goals.

Occasionally, it’s because I’m waiting to hear back from people and what is of critical importance to me has absolutely no effect on them, and so I end up wasting time worrying over something I have no control over.

This week, it’s been a combination of all three factors, which means my husband has to put up with a very grumpy, temperamental wife. (Sorry, Sweetie…)

Since I’m not sleeping anyway, I figured I would write in my neglected blog. And today it doesn’t have much to do with animals. Instead, it has to do with banning books.

As a writer, this is a subject near and dear to my heart.  So, if you’re one of those people who are running around school libraries blaming a book for all of your kids problems, you should probably log off now. If you stick around, you may just learn something and God forbid that happen…

Banned Books Week runs from September 25 – October 2 this year. The goal of this week is to raise awareness in normal people about all the abnormal people who are running around trying to ban books from our public and school libraries. It’s important that we are aware of these creatures, because they have the potential to really screw the arts up and impact lives that they don’t care about.

First, let’s clarify the different levels of “banned.”  Here is how the complaints are classed according to the American Library Association (ALA).

In 1986, in response to inquiries from librarians facing book or material challenges for the first time, the Intellectual Freedom Committee developed the following list of definitions to clarify terminology associated with challenges:

  • Expression of Concern. An inquiry that has judgmental overtones. (Hmmm. “judgmental overtones? Doesn’t that apply to the people trying to ban books?)
  • Oral Complaint. An oral challenge to the presence and/or appropriateness of the material in question. (Hee hee – I’ll bet it just kills these book banners to use that phrase when complaining!)
  • Written Complaint. A formal, written complaint filed with the institution (library, school, etc.), challenging the presence and/or appropriateness of specific material. (If it’s a book and it’s in a school or library, I’m thinking that would be appropriate, no? What am I missing?)
  • Public Attack. A publicly disseminated statement challenging the value of the material, presented to the media and/or others outside the institutional organization in order to gain public support for further action. (Public attack, huh? You mean, like demanding books be banned?)
  • Censorship. A change in the access status of material, based on the content of the work and made by a governing authority or its representatives. Such changes include exclusion, restriction, removal, or age/grade level changes. (Don’t we have laws against censorship? How are these people getting away with this?)

The ten most challenged books of 2009 are:

  1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
    Reasons: drugs, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  2. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
    Reasons: homosexuality
  3. The Perks of Being A Wallflower , by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: anti-family, drugs, homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited to age group
  4. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    Reasons: offensive language, racism, unsuited to age group
  5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
    Reasons: religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  6. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  7. My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult
    Reasons: homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
  8. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  9. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  10. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
    Reasons: nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

Seriously… The entire Twilight series is considered too sexually explicit? Are you serious? Who the hell are these people whining about Twilight?! And The Chocolate War? I certainly don’t remember reading about that while I was growing up.  Could it be that the people protesting these books just have really sick and twisted minds? I’m voting for that conclusion because it is the only thing that could possibly explain why many of the classics have been banned over the years.  Check out this PARTIAL list of banned classics – I think you’ll be as surprised as I was:

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Ulysses, by James Joyce
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
1984, by George Orwell
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Native Son, by Richard Wright
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
The Awakening, by Kate Chopin

Really? The Call of the Wild is banned? The only person I can think of who would consider The Call of the Wild “dangerous reading” is Sarah Palin.

Geez. Maybe that’s why I’m so screwed up – it was all that reading I did as a kid. Apparently Charlotte’s Web has even been challenged. What kind of person challenges Charlotte’s Web?! It’s about a pig and a spider for God’s sake! (Of course <spoiler alert>, I did cry like a little baby at the end of the book. And at the beginning. And in the middle, come to think of it… Well, no matter. I’m sure I was upset over something at the time.)

What I’m trying to emphasize in this post is that we need to be vigilant in the defense of our rights as Americans. These books have the potential of disappearing completely from our history. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but if we don’t stay on top of things, it could happen. We need to remain educated and teach our kids the importance of reading… well, everything. Its a way of teaching them perspective and point-of-view, it’s a way of showing tolerance for others, of exposing them to worlds they may never know. Besides, the people banning books for the imagined sex, violence, and “judgmental overtones” are generally the same people who live and die by every word written in the bible – one of the most sexual, violent and judgmental texts ever penned!

I don’t get it…

There are a few things we can do about it, though and this site has a ton of great ideas. Those of us who read a wide variety of books know that the right to peaceful assembly and protest has done wonders in the past and we should exercise that right. Let’s continue to fight censorship and raise awareness that the practice of book bans is archaic and corrupt and a violation of our rights.

So what are your thoughts on banning books?


  1. I found the Banned Book article very interesting but then you just had to put in a political snarl to Sarah Palin in there. How predictable! I am against Sarah’s pro wolf-hunt stance- but am more against the Socialist leader living in MY Whitehouse and pushing crap down my throat.

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